These are budget projects high school students will get excited about – both fun, and a great learning experience to understand money better.
Need a project-based way to teach your teens about managing a limited set of money?
These budget projects for high school students will help them to self-discover some pretty important money lessons, such as:
- How to prioritize and track bill payment
- How a person’s job and life choices can affect their money obligations
- How to do real-world money math in various scenarios
- How a teen can improve their budget
And I’m starting the list off with my most favorite budget project!
Budget Projects for High School Students
We’re going to start off these budget projects with my very new one, a bill-paying budget project scenario.
Stick around for the other three, too!
Hint: you'll also want to check out my article on how to teach budgeting, from beginner to advanced levels.
1. Bill-Paying Budget Project
Bill paying is not something we’re born knowing how to do.
And it can feel like a slap in the face when you hit the real world and suddenly must be able to:
- Keep track of varying bill due dates
- Manage paydays, which usually come on different dates of the month than when bills are due
- Track what was already paid, and what hasn’t been paid yet, so that you recognize if a bill is missing (bills are due regardless of whether or not they got lost in the mail)
Most teenagers never deal with a monthly bill due date until they hit the real world – and at that point, slipping up can mean late fees, services turned off, lower credit scores, etc.
Why not give them a heads-up by working on a bill-paying budget project ahead of time?
Here’s a 30-day budget project, including a printable pack I created and am giving away for free for now (yes, I have plans on charging for this in the future – so go ahead and grab a copy!).
Step #1: Assign a Job + Bills with Due Dates
At the beginning of the month, assign your high school students one of four jobs. Based on the job they get, they’ll be assigned a list of bills with due dates, and a blank monthly money calendar.
Let your students know they’ll be paying bills over the course of the next month, according to when they are due. Also, tell the students there will be two paydays for the month, and that they’ll be paid pretend money on these days (here is free printable money for kids).
They’ll take their bills sheet, and correctly fill in their monthly money calendar with each of the due dates, plus their paydays. They are then responsible for paying each of these bills by the due date (or face a late fee).
You can choose how to keep track of everything, but I would recommend a bill pay pocket chart.
Here’s how I set mine up to test everything out:
These two items were enough for a class of 30 students:
Step #2: Set Up a Bill Paying Station
You’ll need an area of the classroom to collect their money, and to sign-off on their bill-paying sheet to show they’ve paid.
The person in charge of this can be a teacher, teacher’s aide, or a student treasurer (you can switch out each week who fulfills this role).
Choose what schedule the bill-paying station will be open, and use the printable bill pay chart to communicate times/dates.
Step #3: Run the Month-Long Simulation
Students are now in charge of paying their bills, as they become due (or ahead of time). The treasurer/banker is in charge of keeping the bill-paying station running, as well as filling in the one-sheet student ledger for when each person pays and how much they end up paying.
And someone else (perhaps the teacher) is in charge of paying the students on each of the two paydays.
At the end of the month, there is a set of reflection questions for students to fill out.
Bonus: Tradeoffs and Prioritizing Money
To increase the “budgeting” part of this, you could come up with things that pretend money can buy.
This would mean that the students need to prioritize their money and make sure they have enough of it left to pay for each bill by its deadline.
For tight budgets, you can use privileges.
- $10 buys you 5 extra minutes on an educational computer game
- $15 buys you one late homework pass
- $XX buys you XXX
Could make things more interesting!
Hint: you'll also want to check out my article on how to teach budgeting.
2. Three-Budget-Scenarios Project
Have you checked out my article on sample budgets for an 18-year-old?
One of the things I stress is a teen should create a budget for more than one scenario for their next step in life, since an older teen’s life opportunities can change so quickly.
Hint: you could show one of these free financial literacy movies for students as to why they need backup plans.
You can take your own high school students through this, as a project.
Step #1: Download a Teen Budget Worksheet
Choose a teen budget worksheet for your students (you can get mine, for free, below), and print out three copies each.
Step #2: Brainstorm Next-Step Scenarios in Teen’s Lives
Get your students to help you brainstorm some common (and not-so-common) next steps that can happen in a teen’s life.
- Getting a first apartment alone
- Getting a first apartment with a roommate
- Going to college
- Going to a trade school
- Living with parents with new money responsibilities (like paying rent)
- Taking a gap year/traveling for awhile
Step #3: Pick 3 Scenarios to Create a Budget Around
Either pick three scenarios from the brainstormed list that every student in your entire class will work on, or let your students pick three different scenarios they’re thinking about living out after they graduate.
Hint: one of the scenarios can be to create a teen budget for their life right now. Then, they can choose their ideal scenario to budget around, and finally their backup plan scenario to budget around.
Help your students to first brainstorm the budget line items for each scenario.
For example, for a first-apartment scenario, they would want to include:
- Utilities (water, electricity, natural gas, trash pick-up, etc.)
- Transportation costs
Step #4: Compare and Discuss Pros/Cons
Ultimately, you want your teen students to see how much they’ll need to earn in order to survive on each of three different scenarios.
You’ll then want to guide discussion on the pros and cons, from a financial perspective, to each of the three different paths post-high school.
3. End-of-Year Class Party Budget Project
Decide to throw an end-of-year party for your class, and let them not only handle most of the logistics, but also handle the budgeting for it.
You’ll need to have a budget for this, which can be gained from fundraising, donations, etc.
Have each student in the class be in charge of something, perhaps broken up by groups. Then, have the entire class be in charge of the big budget decisions.
Budget decisions to be made:
- How to raise the money (if it’s not provided)
- What percentage of money to spend in each category (food, decorations, entertainment, etc.)
- Any rules or limitations when spending the money, as well as basic party setup (also great for teachers to provide their own rules and limitations – but you already knew that!)
- This or That scenarios, where the class must decide on budgeting priorities (for example, would they rather have decorations, or more money spent on the food?)
There are also some great budgeting decisions that need to be made at the group level.
Group budget decisions to be made:
- Specific items to purchase with the overall budget
- Amount of money to spend on each item
- Research the cost of an item online vs. in-store, and weigh which one is better to purchase (take into consideration cost of gas and cost of shipping to get the item, whether or not you can find an online coupon or regular coupon to use, quality of product and how many times it’ll get used, etc.)
4. Fun Budgeting Simulation
Did you know I have a free, fun budget activity PDF for high school students?
Students use a fun fortune teller to be assigned one of 4 avatars, with a backstory that includes:
- Career stage
- Lifestyle stage
- Salary info
- Budgeting info
They’re asked to fill in a budget worksheet based off of their brief. Then, they’re thrown a few budgeting scenarios where they need to think on their feet (based on the budget info they filled out) about how to handle it.
- New job/lose job
- Hurricane soaks your belongings
- New puppy
It’s pretty fun!
Psst: you'll also want to check out these personal finance project examples.
I hope I’ve shown you some budget projects high school students can really get behind, because they’re at least a bit fun, they teach real life information, and they’ll make them think. I’d love to hear from you as far as how it goes!
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